Recently, the following questions were presented to me: “Where did the idea of missions and missionaries come from? Are there formal and informal aspects of missions? As a new Christian, am I also a missionary? If so, what’s my mission? And where’s my mission field?” When the Lord Jesus was here on earth He drew men and women to Himself. Then we find those who were drawn to Him almost instinctively going to tell others. Consider the examples of Andrew, the leper and the maniac: After Andrew met Jesus, he “found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ ... and he brought him to Jesus” (Jn. 1:40-42 NKJV). The leper who was healed, even after being told to tell no one, “went out and began to proclaim it freely” (Mk. 1:40-45). The maniac from whom the Lord expelled the legion of demons “departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him” (Mk. 5:20). Decapolis was a region of Palestine that consisted of ten important cities linked together.
Christians Are Missionaries
Yes, a new Christian is very definitely a missionary. New Christians are particularly prone, but are also responsible, to share what they have found in Jesus, their Savior and Lord. This is often quite spontaneous and informal, and it is best that way. We see repeatedly in God’s Word, that the Christian needs absolutely no authorization or ordination from man to share Christ with others. Consider the following four examples from Scripture:
As a typical example, in 2 Kings 7 the starving lepers – who found the Syrian camp deserted and tents filled with food, clothing, gold and silver – realized that it was wrong to keep these good things for themselves. “They said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household’” (2 Ki. 7:9-10).
When the Lord called Levi (also known as Matthew) to follow Him, Levi “left all, rose up, and followed Him … and gave Him a great feast in his own house” to which he invited a great number of his fellow tax collectors and others (Lk. 5:27-30). He wanted his friends to know the One whom he would now follow, leaving the lucrative profession he had been engaged in.
When persecution scattered the early Christians at Jerusalem, “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:1-4). Acts 11:19 shows us that some went hundreds of miles “preaching the Word” and “preaching the Lord Jesus,” and that God blessed them.
When Saul of Tarsus was saved and baptized, he “spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:19-20). Later, Paul referred to this in Galatians 1:11-18, saying that he did not confer with flesh and blood, nor go up to Jerusalem for authorization to do this.
We see from these examples that a new Christian can and should share Christ with those with whom he has contact. Just before He returned to heaven the Lord told His disciples that “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you … you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). Ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit did come, and they immediately began to speak “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:1-11). They were gifted to speak in many different languages; as we go on in the chapter we see them speaking of Christ: His death, resurrection and exaltation at God’s right hand. Today, we receive the same Holy Spirit when we become Christians, and He enables us to speak of Christ, our new-found Savior, too.
The Christian’s Mission
A missionary is essentially one who has a mission. Our mission as Christians is embodied in what we often term the Great Commission, most simply expressed by our Lord when He told His own, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). Matthew presents this commission in a fuller way: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:18-20). We go as authorized by Him and knowing that He is ever with us. Our mission field is wherever the Lord has seen fit to place us.
The time may come when He may call us to leave home and the surroundings we are accustomed to, in order to engage in a specific service for Him somewhere else. This is what most people think of when they use the term “missionary” in a more formal way. But it has often been said that a plane ticket to another country does not make one a missionary. Service for the Lord begins wherever we are, but the Lord may see fit to expand our realm of service. If we are faithful in little things, the Lord may use us in bigger things. Faithfulness and obedience are qualities He is seeking in us.
Training For Missions
As He did with Barnabas and Saul (Paul) in Acts 13:1-4, the Lord may make known to others that He is calling someone to a new field of service. The Spirit made it plain to the prophets and teachers in the assembly at Antioch: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” He had been giving them on-the-job training, and had made it plain to them that He was calling them to leave Antioch and go to the regions beyond. Now He made this plain to others too, so that they may have fellowship with them and commend them to God’s grace for this new work (Acts 14:26).
Notice, too, that the Lord has never made some formal course of study, certification or degree a requirement to serve Him, at home or abroad. A good understanding of God’s Word, a love for people, the ability to get along with them, true humility, an aptitude for languages, and practical skills – such qualities are helpful. But when the going gets tough, it is imperative to have the assurance that He has called us and commissioned us to be where we are and to do what we are doing.
As fellow members of the body of Christ, let’s always pray for and support one another in practical ways. But when the Lord calls us to leave home and friends to serve Him in hard places or at difficult tasks, how much more important it is to know that fellow believers are supporting us by their prayers, encouragement and practical support in whatever sphere of missionary service He would use us.
By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org